Republic Bank, Rapidfire helping children see bright future

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Trinidad Eye Hospital chief surgeon Dr Ronnie Bhola speaks at an Eyes Right project event at the Couva Point Lisas Chamber Building, Couva, on November 19. Photo courtesy Rapidfire Kid Foundation

Poor eyesight, especially in children, has been identified as one of the lingering after-effects of the covid19 pandemic. Rapidfire Kidz Foundation, through its Eyes Right project, has teamed up with Republic Bank Ltd to ensure the inability to see properly does not deny a child the right to a bright future.

On November 19, Rapidfire distributed eyeglasses to 49 students of Esperanza Presbyterian and Phoenix Park Government Primary schools at a function at the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber.

Foundation president Kevin Ratiram said the function also marked World Children’s Day, observed on November 20. Ratiram said to date his organisation and their various partners, has donated 1,135 pairs of glasses to students across the country.

Feature speaker Dr Ronnie Bhola, chief surgeon, Trinidad Eye Hospital congratulated Rapidfire for the initiative.

“You all continue to strive to solve a problem that so many populations struggle to overcome refractive error. It takes a heavy investment of time, effort and focus to shoulder social challenges like this one and move people to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Bhola cited published research to show 80 per cent of classroom learning is visual.

“Over 20 per cent of students have a visual issue in which 80-90 per cent of those defects can be corrected with a pair of spectacles.

“It is morally wrong to know that children are struggling, day in, day out, for an issue that can be easily remediated with a pair of glasses.”

He said since the pandemic eye specialists have noticed an increase in myopia or shortsightedness due to the drastic reduction in outdoor time and more time on screens.

“There has been an uprising in juvenile myopia in children. Myopia, or shortsightedness, impacts how you see at a distance. For example, focusing on the board in school or even participating in sports can become difficult.

Students from Esperanzan Presbyterian and Phoenix Park Government primary schools receive eye glasses donated by the Rapidfire Kid Foundation and Republic Bank Ltd through their Eyes Right projectat the Couva Point Lisas Chamber Building on November 19. Photo courtesy Rapidfire Kidz Foundation

“At our company, we also noticed that our paediatric clinics have tripled within the last two years, with many children in need of spectacles correction.”

Sharmilla Latoo, representative of Republic Bank, in her address, also provided data to support Bhola’s information, that before the pandemic, approximately ten per cent of primary-school students required glasses.

“Following the pandemic, it was observed that this figure rose sharply to approximately 20 per cent.

“While it was fortunate that technology was able to facilitate the education of our nation’s children during such a challenging period, it also heightened our need to protect and preserve the quality of their eyesight.

“Quality eye care is something that should always be focused on, but in a world where we find ourselves in front of screens more often than ever, maintaining our eye health has become an even greater priority.

“That’s why we are extremely proud to work with the Rapidfire Kidz Foundation and See Vu Optical on this worthwhile project.”

Republic has been partnering with Rapidfire since 2017, as part of the bank’s Power to Make a Difference programme.

“The work of the Rapidfire Kidz on this Eyes Right project especially stands out, because it is the only project of its kind offering such a critical service to the communities it serves.

“We at Republic Bank believe that all children deserve access to the most basic of needs like healthcare, particularly the need to see.

“Though sometimes challenging, the world is still filled with many things of wonder and beauty, and our kids deserve to see it all,” Latoo said.

Bhola told the parents and students receiving glasses, “You have been granted a fresh slate of opportunity to go forward and learn and develop with new confidence knowing that greatness is available and accessible to each one of you.”